End of the line for Harpenden respite unit

PUBLISHED: 19:04 12 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:53 06 May 2010

DESPITE numerous objections from parents of children who use a respite care unit at a Harpenden hostel, the county council s cabinet is expected to ratify its closure on Monday. Harpenden Mencap s Stairways Hostel in Douglas Road provides three respite be

DESPITE numerous objections from parents of children who use a respite care unit at a Harpenden hostel, the county council's cabinet is expected to ratify its closure on Monday.

Harpenden Mencap's Stairways Hostel in Douglas Road provides three respite beds for children as well as an outreach service to take disabled youngsters out and about.

But the county council proposed the closure of the respite unit last year and, despite the objections which resulted from consultation into the document Aiming High for Disabled Children, the cabinet will almost certainly back a shake-up of short-break services for disabled children and those with learning disabilities at its Monday meeting.

Instead of the existing provision in the county, it wants to introduce a so-called hub and spoke model with a main centre where services will be coordinated and a residential element in five hubs across Herts for short-break care and outreach activities.

A respite unit will be opened in the west of the county to serve the St Albans district and groups like Harpenden Mencap will be asked to tender to build it.

Stairways has been ruled out continuing to provide overnight care because the county council - despite purchasing places there for children itself - says is not accessible to children with physical difficulties.

Among the objections raised by parents is the need to provide stability for children with additional needs and their preference for smaller units which offer a homely atmosphere and a comfortable and appropriate environment.

Patrick Fisher, a trustee of Harpenden Mencap, said: "There is no doubt that councillors want to do what is right but as the whole focus is spending government money and making efficiencies, the result is folly.


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